In the SUV world, there are few models that are as recognizable as a used Dodge Durango – partly because it’s a vehicle that has undergone so many styling changes through its three generations of existence. The first generation featured an awkwardly proportioned vehicle with a jacked-up stance in the front, and a somehow seemingly lowered stance in the back, along with a body that looks like it slots somewhere between a performance sedan, minivan, and SUV. The second generation of the Durango wasn’t much better, but it was at least an improvement. It looked like a mixture between an SUV and a minivan, with a terribly rounded hood that followed the windshield up to an even more awkwardly rounded roofline, which then sheared off at the back in a sudden drop.
But, the third generation got it right. The Durango’s third generation began with the 2011 model, and continues to the current model year.
After a one-year hiatus, the Durango emerged looking better than ever. While it looked completely different (more aggressive) than before, the design actually belies the engineering choices that lie underneath. The Durango went from a traditional body-on-frame, truck-based design, to a car-like unibody architecture. This means that off the road, the Durango is no longer as durable or capable as before. But on the bight side, a car-like unibody structure now means it gets much better ride quality and handling on the road. Also, it’s now a crossover SUV. No longer a straight-up truck-based SUV.
In order to compliment this newfound sense of ride quality and handling, Dodge also gave the Durango a new 3.6-liter V6 engine that produces 290 horsepower, a huge increase — 80 horsepower — compared to the previous generation’s 3.7-liter V6. A 5.7-liter V8 is also available, which means the Durango had three engine options in the first year of the third generation. With the biggest engine equipped, the Durango can tow as much as 7,400 pounds, quite a lot for a crossover SUV of this size.
The 2011 model year was an impressive start to this generation, but if passenger comfort is your goal then grab a 2012 Durango. Why? Because, it was offered with available second-row captain’s chairs. If you’re looking to get more comfort for fewer passengers, then a 2012 model with these chairs installed (instead of the bench seat) is the way to go. Also, the V8 engine got a new six-speed automatic transmission paired to it.
Trim levels were also revised, so if you’re looking for an easier “pick-and-choose” shopping experience, this might be the way to go. Now narrowed down to four trim levels: the base SXT, Crew, R/T and Citadel, the best possible fuel economy from the SXT trim and V6 engine is 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway. Just like last year’s model.
Also noteworthy, the Durango earned a perfect “Good” safety rating for its performance in the frontal-offset, side-impact, and roof-strength tests in IIHS crash safety tests. In other words, the 2012 Dodge Durango is a perfectly safe crossover SUV for you and the family.
Heading into 2013, the Durango remained unchanged. Meaning if you’re looking for a used 3rd generation model, you’re better off buying a 2012 model and saving some money, or dishing out a little more for a 2014 model in order to enjoy some updates.
But if you find a good deal on a 2013 model, don’t pass it up. It still retains all the positive qualities, like a sophisticated car-like ride and handling, easy maneuverability, a powerful V8 engine, exceptional towing capacity for its class, and a spacious third-row seat.
2014 was the year of technology upgrades for the 3rd generation Dodge Durango, considering the interior was graced with an 8.4-inch touchscreen display and a rear-seat Blu-ray player, handy to keep both restless kids and bored adults happy.
However, a new eight-speed automatic transmission is also available, providing a wider gearing range compared to the previous six-speed automatic transmission, which means the Durango’s V6 and V8 engines (since all models come with the new transmission) can really help smooth out the ride, and aid in fuel-efficiency.
That 5.7-liter V8 transmission is good for 360 horsepower and 390 lb.-ft. of torque, and is still able to tow up to 7,400 pounds, while the V6 engine manages 6,200 pounds. Regardless, both figures are above average for crossover SUVs during this particular model year.
Towards the end of 2014, a styling package called the Blacktop was added. This added styling enhancements via a plethora of gloss-black exterior trim.
In 2015, the R/T also got a styling upgrade. Now, it can be slathered in vibrant red leather upholstery. Also, a Beats by Dr. Dre audio system has been introduced, featuring a 10-speaker sound system that provides you with a high-quality, crystal clear music listening experience.
Again, easy maneuverability, a well-trimmed, high-tech cabin, powerful V8 engine, and capable towing all remain the Durango’s strong suit towards the end of the 3rd generation.
With big changes for the barely used 2016 Durango, Dodge undoubtedly was determined to send the 3rd generation out with a bang. An automatic stop-start system is equipped on the 2016 Durango to improve fuel economy by shutting down the engine when it’s not needed, and a new Sport mode is added standard to the Drive Mode Select across all models. This mode offers firmer steering, altered throttle response, and transmission shift programming; all for the purpose of making the Durango feel sportier on the road. The fuel economy increases to a possible best of 19 mpg city/27 mpg highway, not bad for a 7-seater crossover SUV – especially since it still retains its above-average towing capability with that fuel-efficiency increase.
At the end of the 3rd generation, the Durango still retains all of the same great qualities that it started gaining with the big redesign for 2011, such as exceptional handling and ride quality, a spacious interior, above-average towing capability, and powerful engine options.
Even though 2017 is part of the 3rd generation Dodge Durango, there aren’t any noteworthy changes or updates to mention about the vehicle. Therefore, a lightly-used Durango with a depreciated price point is the way to go.